Airway Disorders

By far sleep is one of the most important cornerstones to a good, healthy life. Not only is your immune system dependent on getting enough sleep, but so too is your cognitive awareness and emotional wellbeing. Living with sleep loss has a wide range of effects including:

Cognition disorders
Mood disorders
Weight gain
Serious illness
Chronic fatigue

The dangers of sleep apnea are endless. Each time air is restricted, the brain is awakened from the deepest stage of the sleep cycle leaving you feeling fatigued. Overtime sleep apnea may even lead to life-threatening risks including cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Causes of Sleep Apnea

Airway disorders are caused by one of two sleep-breathing disorders, Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS) or Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). In both cases you experience insufficient airflow due to your airway being blocked by soft tissue; however, there are crucial differences between UARS and OSA.

Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome

UARS disorder involves shallow breaths while sleeping and occurs when the airway is blocked by soft tissue of the airway (i.e., throat, adenoids, tonsils, or tongue). Far too often UARS is misdiagnosed as other health issues such as Lyme disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, or psychiatric disorders. If you are experiencing the following symptoms you may have UARS:

Chronic fatigue
Difficulty focusing
Memory loss
Chronic nasal congestion
Frequent headaches
Teeth grinding while sleeping
Low blood pressure
Spastic colon

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Snoring is a signal that your airway is not functioning properly. It is often caused by a narrow airway, soft tissue abnormalities, or the position of your tongue. Airway restrictions cause apneic episodes in which breathing completely cease or pauses, resulting in sleep fragmentation and lower oxygen saturation. While you may be unaware of breathing pauses, your brain is not. In fact, the brain compensates by elevating its fight or flight response to stabilize the body’s normal function! Warning signs that you are suffering from obstructive sleep apnea include:

Frequent awakenings
Restless sleep
Excessive daytime sleepiness
Morning headaches
Frequent urination
High blood pressure
Greater risk of heart attack

Diagnosing Airway Disorders

Though a sleep medicine doctor is the only physician that can diagnose airway disorders you can be aware of these warning signs to help you determine if you may be suffering from sleep apnea:

Frequent awakenings
Restless sleep
Sore or dry throat upon waking
Choking or gasping while sleeping
Excessive daytime sleepiness
Morning headaches
Daytime lethargy
Mood changes- anxiety, depression, edginess
Clenching and/or grinding of the teeth
Frequent urination
Uncontrolled high blood pressure, arrhythmia

Treating Airway Disorders and Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea will not go away on its own and requires proper treatment in order to be resolved. Treatment options may include CPAP machine and surgery; however, in our office we practice using oral appliance therapy and myofunctional therapy to effectively treat airway and sleep disorders. When a patient is stabilized with a CPAP, we will work with them to help diagnose and treat underlying causes.

We focus on structure (facial growth and development), function (tongue and swallow therapy and proper nasal breathing), and behavior (sleep hygiene and behavioral breathing techniques) to effectively eliminate and manage sleep apnea. In this way we treat the root causes of sleep disorders and consider how to maintain an open, unobstructed airway.

Kuljic DDS & Team
900 Cummings Center
Suite 106T, Beverly MA 01915
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Kuljic DDS & Team
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